School of Marine Science and Engineering

BSc (Hons) Marine Biology

In this hands-on degree, one of the best in the UK and with an international reputation, you’ll explore the diversity of marine life from coastal margins to the deep sea and gain an in-depth understanding of the biology of marine organisms. Teaching takes advantage of the South Devon coast as well as some of Europe’s best marine facilities - so you’ll have the opportunity to not just experience marine biology but to practice it at the highest levels in both the laboratory and out in the field.

In the 2015 National Student Survey, 97% of students felt staff on this course were good at explaining things; 91% felt that the staff made the subject interesting; 97% found the course intellectually stimulating and 97% were satisfied with the course overall.

Key features

  • In the 2015 National Student Survey, 97 per cent of students felt staff on this course were good at explaining things; 91 per cent felt that the staff made the subject interesting; 97 per cent found the course intellectually stimulating and 97 per cent were satisfied with the course overall.
  • Explore the full diversity of marine life, from microscopic plankton to iconic marine mammals. Study marine organisms from every angle including how they work, develop and behave and where they are found, how they have evolved and what the future holds for them.
  • Study marine life in the wild with access to the beautiful and varied Devon and Cornwall coastline. A recent World Wildlife Fund report  highlighted the South Devon coast – which can be reached on foot from campus – as the area of highest marine biodiversity in the UK.
  • Access the University’s research vessels based in the Plymouth Sound Special Area for Conservation and, from 2014/15, our new Marine Station.
  • LABplus is a unique open access laboratory and resource centre designed for students studying science and engineering courses. The lab provides a flexible workspace, computing facilities, specialist software, access to microscopes, microscope cameras and bespoke resources. 
  • Benefit from our reputation as an international centre for marine research. Our expert teaching staff collaborate on many varied research projects – one of the many reasons why 91 per cent of our graduates said that our staff made the subject interesting (source: UNISTATS).
  • Opportunities to gain extra experience working in one of the marine research organisations located in Plymouth, alongside your studies. The University enjoys strong links with the internationally renowned marine research establishments based in the city, including the Diving Diseases Research Centre, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the Marine Biological Association of the UK and the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science.
  • Increase your knowledge and apply your skills in an international setting, with two residential field courses abroad (France and Portugal) that give you the chance to study marine organisms not found in UK waters.
  • Develop a wide range of skills that will prepare you for your chosen career and make you attractive to employers –  learn how to ask and answer research questions, and learn how marine biology research gets funded in the UK in a unique role play event. There is also the opportunity to gain the HSE PRO SCUBA commercial diver qualification, for those with a suitable background in diving.

Course details

  • Year 1
  • In your first year, you’ll get to grips with key biological and oceanographic themes, with topics ranging from biodiversity and ecosystems to evolution and microbiology. Through a mixture of lectures, small group tutorials, laboratory and fieldwork, you’ll begin to acquire skills that will boost your employability and help your career development. You’ll also benefit from a residential field course abroad, introducing you to the processes of scientific investigation, data collection and analysis.
    Core modules
    • BIOL120 Cell Biology and Microbiology

      This module introduces the fundamentals and principles of cell biology. The second part explores the ecophysiology and importance of microbes in the living world, including their role in global processes and interactions with other organisms.

    • MBIO122 Evolution and Biodiversity

      This course provides an introduction to the bases of life, of evolution and its consequences. From understanding genes and genomes we build up to a consideration of how Natural Section drives the diversification of life using examples from trilobites to human evolution. We then look at how the process of diversification is countered by extinction and consider the current state of global biodiversity.

    • MBIO120 Introduction to Marine Biology

      This module will introduce students to marine biology covering aspects such as marine ecosystems, organisms and oceanography. This will also start to develop a range of core skills and confidence in effective written communication, information technology (including use of peer-reviewed literature), and data handling skills. It will also start to develop field and id skills and taxonomy skills and safe fieldwork practices.

    • MBIO121 Life on Earth

      The module will provide an overview of the major taxa of living organisms, their diversity, biology and evolutionary relationships.

    • MBIO123 Marine Biology Field Course

      This module develops core skills in effective oral and written communication and provides a toolbox of essential material on numeracy and statistics to address quantitative questions in Marine Biology. During an intensive field course, you will immerse yourself in practical aspects of marine biology, asking questions based on observations and then formulating appropriate hypotheses that can then be tested.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL124PP Biology of Sex

      This module will introduce you to the following topics; the evolution of sex, competition for mates, sperm competition, mate choice, sex & disease and other elements of the biology of sex. Each week will start with a discussion of the main areas of exciting research on that topic, across a range of species including humans. Students will then develop their learning in supervised workshops.

    • ENGL405PP Making Waves: Representing the Sea, Then and Now

      The four-week Plymouth Plus module fosters both analytical and creative skills, through problem-based, self-reflective, collaborative and interdisciplinary learning; students devise a major group presentation. Discipline-based skills are focused on the topic of the sea; close attention to classic maritime poetry and fiction encourages basic literary critical and creative skills. The analytical concept of waves is central to the module, and broadens the topic out to foster more general critical, theory-based thinking.

    • OS106PP Our Ocean Planet

      In this module students will explore important topical issues associated with our ocean planet. Students will have a creative opportunity to work in teams on a topic of their choice using a project based learning approach. They will develop a variety of communication skills in order to present their ideas in a medium of their team's choice.

    • ROCO103PP Robot Design and Build

      This module will introduce the students to practical skills needed to design and build a small robot. A number of hands-on tutorials on specific topics will provide the necessary knowledge. Most of the module will be organized around practical design-and-build exercises framed in the context of a robot competition.

    • BIOL125PP Scientific Method and Ethics in Biology

      This module explores how modern scientific research is conducted; the importance of professional ethics in science, based on principles of rigour, respect and responsibility; the essential elements of effective science communication; and the development of critical scientific thinking involving graphical, numerical and statistical approaches. It includes examples of reliable (`good') and unreliable (`bad') science.

  • Year 2
  • In your second year, you’ll sharpen your practical skills in the setting of the South Devon coastline, just minutes away. We’ll introduce you to methods for collecting, handling and analysing scientific data, as well engaging with the biology of marine organisms and the ecology of shallow water marine habitats. Depending on your choice of modules, you can receive training in underwater sampling and all students will explore experimental methods during a field course that currently takes place in Portugal.
    Core modules
    • MBIO228 Biology of Marine Organisms

      This module will provide an introduction to fundamental aspects of the biology of marine organisms. Particular attention is paid to the diversity of form and function within key groups of marine chloroxygenic organisms and animals and how this allows them to inhabit different marine environments.

    • MBIO217 Ecology of Shallow Water Marine Habitats

      Shallow water marine habitats represent some of the most diverse and productive habitats on earth. This module provides an overview of the key factors influencing their ecology and will also consider the biology of the organisms therein, the scientific study of shallow water habitats and the analysis, evaluation and communication of marine ecological data.

    • MBIO222 Ecophysiology of Marine Animals

      This module will develop a detailed understanding of how marine organisms `work¿ within an ecological and evolutionary context.

    • MBIO226 Experimental Marine Biology Field Course

      The ability to accurately describe organisms and the environments in which they live; and to design, conduct, analyse and present the outcomes of experiments is fundamental to scientific advancement. Conducted during a residential overseas field course, this module focuses on practical field- and laboratory-based study of aquatic habitats, assemblages and organisms.

    • MBIO223 Methods in Marine Biology

      Provides the core skills and techniques that will equip students to perform laboratory and field studies in Marine Biology. Introduces appropriate methodologies for the collection, handling and analysis of data; the scientific principles underlying experimental design and the effective communication of scientific information.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL214 Ecology

      An understanding of basic concepts is needed to solve ecological problems. This module explores key concepts in ecology at the levels of individuals, populations and communities. The concepts are supported with examples taken from terrestrial and aquatic systems, and provide a useful insight into the search for general theories in ecology.

    • MBIO221 Marine Molecular Biology

      The application of molecular techniques in marine biology has revolutionised our understanding of marine life, from individuals to ecosystems. This module provides a foundation in the concepts and techniques underlying these developments.

    • MASC201 Measurement and Monitoring in the Underwater Environment

      This module allows suitably qualified students (HSE SCUBA or equivalent) to develop industry and research-relevant skills in measurement and monitoring in the underwater environment using professional SCUBA and related techniques. These will then be applied in a multi-disciplinary context to the planning, execution, analysis and reporting of a field-based sampling activity.

  • Optional placement year
  • During your optional third year, you’ll have the opportunity to do a work placement, for a six or 12-month period. Alternatively, you’ll be able to choose a work-based learning module alongside your studies.
    Optional modules
    • BPIE336 Marine Biology related Placement

      A 48-week period of professional training spent as the third year of a sandwich programme undertaking an approved placement with a suitable company. This provides an opportunity for the student to gain relevant industrial experience to consolidate the first two stages of study and to prepare for the final stage and employment after graduation.

  • Final year
  • Your final year of study provides the opportunity for you to focus on your chosen areas of interest. You’ll conduct an extensive personal research project, applying the skills and methods you've learned. You’ll also choose from a range of modules that are driven by the research interests of our staff, again giving you the opportunity to specialise and tailor your work towards your career goals, while studying at the cutting edge of marine biology.
    Core modules
    • MBIO329 Marine Biology: An Evolutionary Approach

      This module is a discussion of recent advances in selected areas of marine biology but within an explicitly evolutionary context. There is a strong emphasis on critical evaluation of relevant primary literature.

    • MBIO313 Personal Research

      This module comprises a research study element, which includes the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; researching relevant literature and report writing and a literature review of a topic addressing wider issues of relevance to their field of research study.

    Optional modules
    • MBIO340 Behaviour and Physiology of Marine Animals

      This module explores the adaptations that provide constraints and opportunities for a range of marine organisms to exploit their habitat, focussing primarily on vertebrates, but including comparative aspects of relevant examples from invertebrate biology. It examines the impact of natural and anthropogenic stresses and current methods used to investigate important questions in behaviour and physiology of marine animals.

    • MBIO317 Behavioural Ecology

      This module examines the theory underpinning key conceptual models in behavioural ecology (e.g. optimal foraging, ideal free distribution, game theory). These models will be critically discussed in relation to empirical studies.

    • MBIO339 Ecology and Conservation of Marine Vertebrates

      Marine vertebrates are vulnerable to depletion through over fishing, industrial development, pollution and habitat degradation. This module will examine the ecology of these animals in their natural environments and explore methods for surveying, monitoring and managing populations and species. There is a strong emphasis on current research and hot topics with numerous case studies used throughout the module.

    • BIOL311 Ecotoxicology

      This module provides a detailed analysis of the concepts and principles of ecotoxicology, with an emphasis on evaluation of ecotoxicological techniques and methods for assessment of impacts of pollutants on the aquatic environment.

    • MBIO325 Marine Algae: Eco-Physiology and Utilization

      This module provides a comprehensive coverage of selected topics on the inter-relationships between marine macroalgae and their environment, with particular emphasis on physiological and cellular responses to natural and anthropogenic stresses. It also introduces the global importance of marine algae as a resource utilized by humans and presents a critical overview of the methods used in seaweed aquaculture.

    • MBIO327 Marine Ecology

      This module considers the processes and mechanisms that affect the development and structure of marine communities through a discussion of the current evidence base, recent concepts and theories relating to multiple life histories stages of marine species from around the globe and experimental testing of behavioural processes. This will be followed by an investigation of the nature and significance of key processes in structuring marine communities.

    • MBIO322 Marine Microbiology - Ecology and Applications

      Marine microbiology has recently emerged as one of the fastest moving areas of the subject. We now realise the importance of marine microbes in global processes, interactions with other marine life and significance for disease and biotechnology. Application of this knowledge has profound implications for human welfare and the future health of the planet.

    • MBIO324 Speciation and Diversity

      This module deals with the nature, generation and significance of biological diversity through a discussion of recent species concepts and mechanisms of speciation in a range of organisms, with emphasis on the evolutionary processes at work. This is followed by an investigation of the nature and significance of biological diversity; how it is assessed, and how it is distributed.

Every undergraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the course aims, the course structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest course structure and may be subject to change:

BSc Hons Marine Biology 0732

The modules shown for this course are those currently being studied by our students, or are proposed new modules. Please note that programme structures and individual modules are subject to amendment from time to time as part of the University’s curriculum enrichment programme and in line with changes in the University’s policies and requirements.

Entry requirements

UCAS tariff
320 points

30 points

A level
Typical offer ABB, to include biology or human biology and a second science subject (i.e. chemistry, environmental science, geography, geology, mathematics, physics or psychology). If no second science, AAB to include biology grade A.

18 Unit BTEC National Diploma/QCF Extended Diploma: in relevant subject. An interview may required.

Access course
Pass an Access to HE Science course with 60 credits overall, to include 45 credits at Level 3, of which 30 credits must be at distinction and 15 credits at merit or higher.  Must include a minimum 15 credits in biology units, plus 15 credits in other relevant subjects*.

Other A level combinations, non-A level qualifications, plus international qualifications will be considered.

You can find additional information on our English language requirements page.

*Accepted subjects: maths, physics, chemistry, environmental science/studies, applied science, geography, geology or technology, psychology.

Fees & funding

New students 2015-16

Please note the fees listed are per annum.

Please use the tables below to find your tuition fee if you are a new undergraduate student beginning your studies in 2015-16. Please note the fees listed are for 2015-16 only.

If you can’t find the answer to your query in the information provided here please get in touch, we’ll be happy to help. 

Email us at or call us on +44 1752 588130.

Full time Home/EU* International**   Islands***
Undergraduate (Classroom based) £9,000 £12,250 £9,000
Undergraduate (Laboratory based) £9,000 £12,500 £9,000
Science and Engineering - Year Zero £9,000 £12,500 £9,000
Management, Government and Law Foundation - Year Zero £7,500 £10,300 £9,000
2 year fast-track £9,000 £12,250 -
Integrated Masters (Classroom based) £9,000 £12,250 £9,000
Integrated Masters (Laboratory based) £9,000 £12,500 £9,000
Master of Architecture (MArch) £9,000 - £9,000
PGCE £9,000 - £9,000
Management Practice (Online) (First year - part time) £3,996 £3,996 £3,996

Part time (per 10 credits) Home/EU* International**   Islands***
Undergraduate (Classroom based) £750 £1,025 £750
Undergraduate (Laboratory based) £750 £1,045 £750
Science and Engineering - Year Zero £750 £1,045 £750
Management, Government and Law Foundation - Year Zero £625 £860 £625
Integrated Masters (Classroom based) £750 £1,025 £750
Integrated Masters (Laboratory based) £750 £1,045 £750
PGCE £750 - £750

*The tuition fee for students transferring to Plymouth University from a partner institution is £9,000. 

**Please refer to the policy for capping of international student tuition fees.

***‘Islands’ refers to fees for both the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Continuing students

Please note some fees for continuing students may differ slightly. 

For a full listing please visit our fees for continuing students 2015-16 page

Further information

Download our fees brochure

Read our Student Fee Policy for the Ordinary Degree route

New students 2016-17

Full time Home/EU* International**   Islands***
Undergraduate (Classroom based) £9000 £12,250 £9000
Undergraduate (Laboratory based) £9000 £12,500 £9000
Science and Engineering - Year Zero £9000 £12,500 £9000
Management, Government and Law  - Year Zero £7500 £10,300 £9,000
2 year fast-track £9,000 £12,250 £9,000
Integrated Masters (Classroom based) £9000 £12,250 £9000
Integrated Masters (Laboratory based) £9000 £12,500 £9000
Master of Architecture (MArch) £9000 £12,250 £9000
PGCE £9000 tbc £9000
Management Practice (Online) (First year - part time) tbc £3,996 tbc

Part time (per 10 credits) Home/EU* International**   Islands***
Undergraduate (Classroom based) £750 £1,025 £750
Undergraduate (Laboratory based) £750 £1,045 £750
Science and Engineering - Year Zero £750 £1,045 £750
Management, Government and Law  - Year Zero £625 £860 £625
Integrated Masters (Classroom based) £750 £1,025 £750
Integrated Masters (Laboratory based) £750 £1,045 £750
PGCE £750 tbc £750

*The tuition fee for students transferring to Plymouth University from a partner institution is £9,000.
**Please refer to the policy for capping of international student tuition fees.

***‘Islands’ refers to fees for both the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Continuing students

Please note some fees for continuing students may differ slightly.

For a full listing please visit our fees for continuing students 2016-17 page.

How to apply

All applications for undergraduate courses are made through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). 

UCAS will ask for the information contained in the box at the top of this course page including the UCAS course code and the institution code. 

To apply for this course and for more information about submitting an application including application deadline dates, please visit the UCAS website.

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email

Marine Station

Boasting lecture facilities overlooking the sea, a wet lab for sample examination and analysis, a seawater aquarium, and field equipment storage and changing facilities.
Discover more about the Marine Station

Welcome to marine biology at Plymouth

See what it's like to study marine biology at Plymouth.

Additional fieldwork and equipment costs

This course includes residential fieldwork. Typically, where the fieldwork is a compulsory part of the course, transport, accommodation and the majority of food costs are paid by the Faculty.

Some courses offer alternative or optional field courses with an additional cost.

Find out more information

Elyssa Quinton - student profile

I have always wanted to study marine biology, and Plymouth offers a fantastic course. I have had the opportunity to go on field trips to Roscoff and Portugal, which allowed me to study marine organisms not found in UK waters.

Find out more about Elyssa Quinton

Careers in marine biology

Whether you want to become a lab technician or work in the field of conservation, we’ll assist you throughout your degree to ensure that by the time you graduate you’ll be en route to the career of your choice.

As a Marine Biology student, your career options are as expansive as the oceans you study.

Find out about your career options

Graduate Profile - Lorna Dallas

I chose Plymouth because of its world-class reputation for marine biology and its close associations with other institutions,
Read Lorna's profile

Graduate Profile - Terri Souster

After graduating from Plymouth, I worked for the Marine Biological Association conducting benthic surveys off the island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel, before joining the British Antarctic Survey.
Read Terri's profile

Study sessions for students by students: Peer Assisted Learning Scheme (PALS)

To complement your formal learning we offer regular sessions that provide the opportunity for you to learn with and from your peers. Share knowledge, discuss ideas, and ask questions in a relaxed and friendly environment

If you are a first or second year take the opportunity to study in a relaxed environment, along with other students on the same programme.

Find out more about how PALS can benefit your studies